How To Stop Expecting Others To Be Who They Are Not

Do Away With Expectation

“Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.” — Paulo Coelho

We should stop expecting others to be who they are not because, ultimately, we cannot control other people. When we impose our expectations onto others, we set ourselves up for frustration or disappointment. We will experience more peace and contentment if we stop expecting others to be who they are not or do something we think they should do. Even if we believe wholeheartedly, they ought to “be a certain way,” it’s best if we release the expectations altogether. This is where human relationships get into trouble. Whether it’s parents and children, friends, or intimate partners, expectations bring about varying degrees of emotions; especially unrealistic expectations. If you find yourself frustrated in your relationships, it’s time to look at whether you live in a state of expectation of others.

We live in a society that is deeply rooted in expectations. We expect our kids to act in certain ways, our employers to treat us this way, our lovers to cater to us that way, and our parents to love us unconditionally. The problem is, no one can really be who we want them to be; they are uniquely themselves; they know who they are, and they are probably pretty good being themselves. They want to feel confident and comfortable being who they are, and if they want to change; they want to change on their own terms, not yours. It’s time to do away with expectations. This will help us experience less anxiety, less stress, frustration, anger, depression, and other negative emotions. Of course, we can expect things like respect from others, but if we base our mood on whether we receive what we expect, we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment. Does this idea resonate with you? If not, I invite you to write the reasons and reflect on them.

Detach From Outcomes

The root of suffering is attachment.” — Buddha

We are solely responsible for our mood and happiness. Sure, it’s easier to live in bliss if everyone around us is behaving in ways that are pleasing to us, but not everyone will act as we’d like. Our teenager might try smoking, our lover will say something to hurt our feelings, our mother might annoy us, and our boss might give the promotion to someone with less experience. Things don’t always go as we plan or as we would like; it’s a fact of life.

If we can decide to detach from outcomes, we can live in bliss more often. I’m not implying we stop caring about others. If our partner forgets to take the garbage out on garbage night again, we don’t need to allow their forgetfulness to ruin our mood for the evening. Yes, we expect them to remember and they should remember because it’s an important task, but to allow their neglect of the task to disturb our emotional state does no one any good. People sometimes forget and if we can remember: Whatever he or she does or doesn’t do is not my primary concern in life. I’m detached from outcomes and I take full responsibility for my happiness,” we’ll be more content and peaceful.

It’s Not Always Easy

“People know themselves much better than you do. That’s why it’s important to stop expecting them to be something other than who they are.” — Maya Angelou

I know of someone who is in a relationship with someone who expects perfection from her. Her partner gets upset with her when she forgets something, doesn’t clean the dishes spotless, leaves a light on, etc. She is just going about her life doing the best she can and because her partner expects so much from her; she walks on eggshells and has been struggling with depression. Her partner expects perfection from her and expects her to be someone she is not. They both need to work through this issue or there will be frustration and disappointment in the relationship. If not addressed, it will most likely fail. It’s difficult to let go of expectations. It’s difficult to let others be who they are in all of their imperfections. It might not be easy, but it is possible. It’s the Buddhist philosophy that emphasises detaching from desires and outcomes. Doing so relieves suffering. What if we went about our day determined to allow happiness to through us, no matter what anyone else did or didn’t do?

Could you do it? Could you smile and send kind thoughts to the sales assistant that takes more time than necessary to check people out at the supermarket? Could you smile and take the garbage out yourself when your partner forgot, again? Would you sit down and have a heartfelt, loving conversation with your daughter when you find cigarettes in her room instead of screaming at her? Could you turn a blind eye when your spouse comes home in a grumpy mood for the third time this week? I’ve known people who seem to flow with life irrespective of what happens to them. They have always been an inspiration and I make it my aim to live the same way. I make it a priority to allow others to be where they are on their journey. I try hard not to make judgments about how people ought to think or behave. It’s not always easy, but it is possible and it becomes easier with practice.

Sometimes, we think the world should revolve around us, but it’s not all about us and our expectations. People are at different levels of growth and to walk in unconditional love is to allow people to be who they are. Life is a journey, and each person is on a different path with different thoughts, feelings, experiences, spirituality, etc. It’s not for anyone to judge another, but to accept them and encourage and love them as possible. Therefore, ask yourself if you’ve been expecting things from others or expecting them to be someone they are not. Can you detach from expectations? Will you be responsible for your own feelings and mood regardless of what others say or do? I put the challenge out there for you and I hope you’ll take it and run blissfully on your path toward a wonderful journey.

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7 Responses to How To Stop Expecting Others To Be Who They Are Not

  1. Lisa says:

    I’ve always been expecting perfection in relationships because my family wants me to marry a good person just like my cousins do. When I see a person, I always judge them as good and bad. The good ones are the ones to date, introduce to family and relatives, and marry and the bad ones aren’t the ones to date at all. I come from a family that doesn’t like getting to know people but rather label them as right or wrong. They want things readily made.

    • Hi Lisa, yes I understand. Some families have a strong cultural identity which means “to save face.” I believe the key is to not label people as good or bad, but rather see the wholeness of their being. I wrote an article which explains this in more detail, //www.tonyfahkry.com/how-to-embrace-your-imperfections.

      We all have good and bad qualities, yet if we focus on a person’s bad qualities alone, we dismiss their positive characteristics. Ultimately, if we move through life labelling things, people and events as black and white, we miss out on penetrating deeper into the core of the experience.

      All the best,

      Tony

      • Lisa says:

        It’s hard. But I am married to the perfect guy my family has chosen for me and he has no baggage at all. They adore him a lot but he’s rather boring, possessive, and arrogant. He thinks he is way better for me than anyone out there and wants me to stay with him. I can’t get out of this marriage because he is already a good person and my family won’t like it.

      • Lisa says:

        Well I am married to a person whom my family approves of. He’s perfectly good but boring, possessive, and arrogant. He thinks he’s the only one that is right for me while all the other people are nothing but wrong. I can’t get out of this marriage because he and my family are worried that I’ll leave him for someone wrong. It’s hard and I’m afraid.

        • Hi Lisa, Thanks for your comment. Let me say, not all the advice you read online will apply to your situation, for each of us are fighting our own battles. I’m sure you will make the right decision whatever you choose, when the time is right. Good luck

  2. Amutha says:

    Dear Tony,

    I have a father who is loving, at least through action- he has worked his whole life to support the family. However, he was not there as a spiritual or emotional support for anyone including my mother. My mother would have divorced him, but her culture is conservative. In fact, he was verbally abusive and may/may not realize how much he still makes others in the family feel ridiculed and belittled. Yes- we can ignore, and do in order to survive around him. However, is it wrong that I avoid his visiting me despite his wanting to come- because I like to be around positive people?

    • Firstly when you realise that the entire universe is perfect and that everything that happens to us is also perfection. An emotionally distant parent is also a teaching point for us if we allow it. I come from a similar upbringing with a father who was emotionally distant and thus caused much tension in our family. Yet my greatest gift from his presence in my life was the contrast that I should treat people with love, respect and kindness. He showed me how to “actually” be in the world. Rather than hold scorn for your father, come from a place of compassion and see the world through his eyes. Remember, we only see the world through our level of awareness and consciousness. Your father might not have had the same nurturing environment as you did and the opportunities to develop his emotional side in a culture which may have encouraged him to suppress it. Best wishes!

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